Cycle Cuba Challenge 2018
Campaign News | Friday, 11 January 2019
"The real highlights were meeting the Cuban people, doctors and medics, teachers and students, trade unionists and local community organisers."
Seeing Cuba from a bicycle seat is a unique experience. It is the best way to see this most fantastic of countries up close. The support was terrific and the Cuban people are as ever fantastic.
Our 10 day trip across Western Cuba provided a perfect balance with cycling, politics, history and sightseeing. Meeting local trade unions, schools and health centres gave us a better understanding of reality of Cuba and the ongoing challenges being faced on a daily basis.
We cycled 40 to 70 kilometres per day. It was challenging. But we all made it, all 22 of us, young and old, super fit or just about able. 12 of the group were from Unite the union including Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner and Welsh regional secretary Pete Hughes. The entire group worked together and supported one another to complete the daily rides. By the end of the trip we had all bonded as one.
The hills are steep, but they’re not mountains. The most challenging in respect of the heat and terrain was the ride to the Gulf of Mexico. Our reward was the white beach and a swim in the beautiful Caribbean ocean followed by fresh coconut water under palm trees.
Rural Cuba is a living history of rural transport from oxen dragging wooden sleighs to horses and carts, then tractors and lorries, and the American 50s cars and the odd 80s Soviet Lada!
We visited Portales caves, used by Che Guevara as the command post for the Western army during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. We visited tourist spots, small out of the way villages, and natural waterfalls where freshwater swimming was a delight.
But the real highlights were meeting the Cuban people, doctors and medics, teachers and students, trade unionists and local community organisers. All were proud to show off their revolution, but all were realistic in explaining their concerns. Above all we came back understanding that the US Blockade was ever present, negatively affecting every aspect of everyone’s lives. Each of us is now more determined than ever to extend our efforts at solidarity with Cuba.
Visiting the Abel Santamaria School for blind and visually impaired children in Havana illustrated just why Cuba is so special. We donated Braille machines, sports equipment and arts materials for the school to help them overcome the difficulties caused by the Blockade. It was evident that the care and attention given to the children was exemplary. Yet it was the students themselves that encapsulated the empowering nature of a society built on mutual respect and understanding. Every one of them was proud of their school and their teachers, they were understanding of their own circumstances, yet they were clear and determined in their own sense of purpose and their desires to achieve everything they possibly could for themselves, their families and their country.
It was a real honour to be part of the Cycle Challenge in 2018. An experience to be cherished and never to be forgotten.
Get in touch today with CSC on firstname.lastname@example.org / 0207 490 5715 if you would like to be kept informed about the next CSC Cycle ride to Cuba already being planned for early 2020.